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Old drug shows new promise for Huntington's Disease

ay in water. After eight weeks of treatment, they had accumulated four times less toxic protein in their brains than control mice given water alone. The experimental animals lived 20 percent longer than the control animals, did better on tests of motor coordination, and had less weight loss.

"It's a limited study, in that we used the same drug dose on all the animals as opposed to comparing different doses, but fairly convincing," Massa concluded. "Together, the in vitro and in vivo results suggest that Clioquinol has an effect of decreasing the symptoms of Huntington's, its pathology, and perhaps even the actual production of the toxic protein."

However, he noted, "the drug's mechanism of action remains unclear." The clearer the mechanism of the drug, he explained, the better the chance that researchers might eventually be able to create a medication that is both safe and effective.

Like some other antibiotics, Clioquinol is known to be a chelator -- that is, it binds metals in body tissues, particularly copper and zinc, and removes them when it is excreted. Massa and other researchers believe that this chelation effect may interfere with production of the mutant huntingtin protein in some way. "But there are still a couple of explanations we need to rule out," he said.

To that end, Massa's next studies will involve the creation of an in vitro system in which toxic and non-toxic forms of huntingtin are made in the same cell. He and his team will then evaluate the effects of Clioquinol on several phases of protein synthesis within the cell. Massa hopes these experiments will confirm initial indications that Clioquinol preferentially interferes with synthesis of the toxic form of the protein. "Then we can move on to trying to isolate the actual mechanism of the drug," he predicted.

"However," Massa cautioned, "the record of successfully translating drugs from animal to human use is not good."

Clioquinol has shown promi
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Contact: Steve Tokar
steve.tokar@ncire.org
415-221-4810 x5202
University of California - San Francisco
11-Sep-2005


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